PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) – The decision to take the “Dixie” out of Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede attraction is rubbing some the wrong way.
“Attitudes have changed in regard to the word Dixie,” said Pete Owens, Director of Media and Public Relations for World Choice Investments.
The Dixie Stampede has been running for nearly 30 years as a popular dinner show. Its website refers to it as a show “filled with friendly North and South competition.” But now “Dixie” is being dropped from the name.
“Anything that had a logo on it or a reference on it to the name, will change,” said Owens.
The Dixie Stampede sign still stands in Pigeon Forge, but crews were out on Wednesday removing the letters from the building.
The website now redirects you to dpstampede.com and the site’s logo has been re-worked with the new name – Dolly Parton’s Stampede.
Owens adds, “The show itself was never about the Civil War. It was really about that good nature competition and the idea of trying to involve the audience.”
The dinner attraction, which is owned by World Choice Investments, has plans to expand into new locations across the country and world. The company says the geographic reference in the show’s name was affecting business.
“It clearly showed that there was a misconception as to what our show was about. They don’t really seem to understand that the Stampede is a patriotic, spectacular show,” said Owens.
The show will feature changes in content and have new additions, but Owens couldn’t release any specifics.
“We entertain you, we feed you. It’s a full, family experience. That’s always been what the show is about,” said Owens.
Not everyone agrees with the recent decision to remove “Dixie” from the name though.
“Dixie is part of my heritage,” said Tara Brandau, who is opposing the change.
Brandau is organizing a protest on Saturday, January 20, to encourage the company to reconsider.
“This place has been here since 1988. Now everybody has an issue because it has the word Dixie in it,” said Brandau. “We’re bringing people, flags, signs, we will have people out here making a statement, letting them know that there’s people who are out here and good, not racist, standing up and fighting back.”
WATE reached out to several historians in our area to learn more about the history about the word “Dixie.”
Dr. Aaron Astor at Maryville College said Dixie the song became an anthem or the Confederacy. Its origins go back before the Civil War and referenced the South. Astor adds that it became associated with the old cotton plantations and slavery. Because of that association, Astor says people have moved away from symbols that celebrate confederacy and the term has become controversial.
Dr. Bob Hutton from the University of Tennessee said, “I think there’s something very special about one of Pigeon Forge’s biggest attractions finally divesting itself of the name DIXIE. Getting rid of the word DIXIE indirectly reflects the fact that Sevier County was one of the most ANTI-secession and ANTI-Confederate single counties in Tennessee, let alone the Confederacy. For that reason, the usage of the word DIXIE there was already ironic and incongruent with Sevier County history. This decision for DIXIE STAMPEDE to get rid of DIXIE demonstrates what’s always been true of eastern Tennessee: we can be part of the SOUTH without conforming to what any Tom, Dick, or Harry insists you must conform to in order to be SOUTHERN. People define where they live, not the other way around.”
The name change is sparking a lot of conversation on social media. Some people are opposed to the change, while others aren’t bothered by it.
The Pigeon Forge attraction will start its 2018 show season on January 19.